Friday, July 22, 2005

NYPD to commence random searches of bags and backpacks

Under orders from Mike "Führer" Bloomberg, the NYPD as of Thursday night has begun random searches of NYC subway passengers' bags and backpacks. This will also apply to commuter train passengers, so I'm affected both ways: I live in Westchester and take the Metro-North railroad to Manhattan, then the subway to work.

Earlier today this made the Yahoo! News headlines but has since been taken off. I don't know if it was ever prominent on the New York Times' homepage. I should mention, as a gentle elbowing, that our friend Jackie Passey blogged about this a little while ago, once I alerted her to this travesty. And Jackie, I actually had the New York Times article up before you even logged on the chat. :P

Bloomberg admitted that this isn't in response to any specific threat. So what's changed, Mike? Since September 11, 2001, most of us always perceived a continuous threat against major American cities, particularly New York and its large subway infrastructure. Is there something you're not telling us, Mike?

If there's a serious, credible threat, then let's do the proper thing: Governor Pataki should call out the National Guard, suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and impose martial law on New York City. Let people see the full horror of the police state, not this veiled facade of liberty. Perhaps then they'll understand how precious personal liberty really is.

People refusing to submit to searches will only be turned away, not questioned or detained. So this will have no effect at all on stopping terrorists. The law of large numbers tells us that if enough of them try, enough will eventually slip through. Meanwhile, subway and commuter train passengers will be inconvenienced, but their safety will not be increased a whit. I can assure you all that it's already sufficiently unpleasant to make my way toward turnstiles during either rush hour. The NYPD stopping random passengers will make it even worse.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said that people can elect to not ride the subway. He is quite incorrect, as well as ignorant of the Constitution. The subway is a public conveyance, so being a passenger in no way waives any of your rights, including being free from unreasonable searches and seizure. Airlines are different. McQ at QandO recently had a good point about their security procedures: airlines are private companies and can therefore require their passengers to comply with certain rules, like showing identification. I do, however, have a problem that much of the security has been forced upon the airlines by the federal government. The federal government has hired tens of thousands of security screeners, among whom are illegal immigrants and people with criminal records. Very well, maybe things have improved since. But the right thing to do would be the free market: airlines could have competed with each other by hiring the best-trained security personnel. People would pay more for a trusted airline with higher security standards, or less if they didn't deem the cost worth the extra security.

Bloomberg's perfectly following the example set by his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, who once declared,
We only see the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do and how you do it.
Doesn't that perfectly explain why authoritarian conservatives (well, Bloomberg isn't a conservative, but in this case he's lumped with them) believe what they do? They believe that even if the threat to society is vague and not necessarily imminent, it's still ok to subvert the individual's freedoms to the majority's needs.

Have we fought for freedom for over two centuries only to degenerate into this? Have we forgotten the words of Samuel Adams?
Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices? Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plow, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom -- go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!
The most important quote of all, however, is that part of the Bill of Rights so often trampled upon, especially by the Patriot Act (which on Thursday the House of Representatives voted to renew):
Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Clearly the NYPD will have no warrants, so what probable cause do they have to search my pack? Has anyone alerted them that a baby-faced Asian-looking fellow is acting suspiciously? In the few moments they see me as I approach the turnstile, did they see me doing something suspicious? No: their only reason is to conduct a random search.

This afternoon I called the New York office of the ACLU to ask what they're doing about this. They said their lawyers were preparing a statement for publication on the NYCLU website. While I'm no fan of either, I wished them good luck. Frankly, I was disappointed. They didn't come out strongly against this at all. Their statement calls Bloomberg's orders unconstitutional, but so far they have no plans to challenge this in court.

Conservatives, of course, love Bloomberg's decision. John Gambling, on his WABC radio show this morning, disgusted me so much that I had to switch off my radio. He's already irked me greatly, and after tomorrow I don't think I'll listen to his show anymore. Tomorrow when he hosts Bloomberg, I'll try to stomach their defense of these wholly unconstitutional searches, this rape of freedom.

On the blogosphere, Ace of Spades calls the searches "prudent" and likely will never understand that they're doomed to ineffectiveness. At least Michelle Malkin calls the new searches "ridiculous" and opposes them, but for "polar reasons" that she'll explain tomorrow. We will see. Confederate Yankee may not want to get blown up, but hasn't he considered the economics of subway travel?

Even without the subsidies, the subway system is cheaper than taxis. Its low cost is a trade-off: it includes putting up with awful-smelling and poorly ventilated underground caverns, unsanitary subway cars, and then the potential muggers, murderers, terrorists and other criminals. I could pay $10 for a quiet, faster and generally safe cab ride from Grand Central Terminal to work. Therefore, I personally value the risk of being criminally violated on the subway, and of course the extra time involved, as not worth paying $8 more for a taxi. Sometimes I do take a taxi, but to save time, not because I'm afraid of terrorists.

This isn't to say that I accept being a possible crime victim, or even the risk, only that I'm not willing to pay more for a high assurance of avoiding criminals. There's a huge difference.

"I know not what course others may take, but give me liberty or give me death!" I would literally rather die than let the terrorists force me to live in a police state. Don't the authoritarians understand that forcing us into our own tyranny is the next best thing to the global spread of Islamo tyranny?


Blogger TKC said...

I've blogged a possible solution to domestic terrorist attacks here:

Basically, it is the 2nd Amendment solution. The Israelis do it, and to a certain extent, it works.
It beats the snot out of a police state.

Friday, July 22, 2005 4:50:00 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Another blogger noted another, more pressing invasion of our rights:

Good article, Perry.

Friday, July 22, 2005 5:37:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

The crazy thing about NYC, TKC, is that you could be a hero and shoot someone about to detonate a nuclear weapon, saving millions of lives... Then the NYPD would arrest you for illegal possession of a handgun in the city.

Thanks for the compliment, Roy. I noted that it happened on the same day the House voted to extent much of the Patriot Act. What a double-whammy.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 5:43:00 PM  

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